Part 3: Suspension
Creating your own suspension system doesn't have to be an overcomplicated nightmare. From the first time we fired up the torch to the last Nylock nut, our Heavy Metal Mudder's suspension was an exercise in matching function, simplicity, and off-the-shelf parts. Still down in East Texas with the Rockwell experts at Old Town Customs, we sat down in front of the monster Durango and begin exploring suspension options.
One of the biggest challenges we faced was the 2 1/2-ton Rockwell's top-loading third member, which rises nearly 10 inches above the axletubes. This isn't an issue if you don't mind building the rig super-tall or pushing the axle a few feet in front of the truck, but we wanted to keep the '99 Durango sitting low and have the tires remain in the general vicinity of the wheelwells.
After examining a variety of suspension configurations, we decided on a coil-spring multilink system that would keep the massive 2 1/2-ton Rockwell axles in check and allow our Durango to flex its skills in a variety of terrains. When scouring around for coils to support the Durango with, we found that its overall weight (approximately 4,300 pounds) is very similar to that of the Jeep Wrangler JK and WJ Grand Cherokee. After pulling a few measurements, we decided that a set of Rock Krawler 3 1/2-inch front JK springs would work great in the front, while a set of RK 8-inch rear WJ springs seemed the perfect fit out back.
Creating your own widgets to get your 4x finished is always a part of the process, but any time you can use readily available aftermarket components, we suggest you do so. It's not that we don't like to fabricate, but oftentimes purchasing items such as control arms and axle brackets will save you time and money. We can't tell you how helpful it was to be able to call up manufacturers and simply ask them questions about their parts and see if those parts would work for our application.
Just because they don't list any parts for your ride doesn't mean you can't make some of their existing products work for your vehicle. A perfect example of this is our Teraflex JK long-arm lower control arms. They are made with beefy flex joints and strong tubing. If we were to ever jump, roll, or do some crazy wheeling acrobatics that destroyed our suspension links, we wouldn't have to go back to the fab table. Rather, we would just place a phone call and have a new control arm delivered to our door.